David Broder likes Mitch Daniels:
Back in Washington, the luxury of having a thoughtful presidential contender was striking for everyone hearing Daniels. The onetime Reagan White House political director and Bush White House budget chief is not your run-of-the-mill intellectual. His style is to be down-home, but his record of accomplishment is dazzling.
As does David Brooks:
Flamboyant performers like Sarah Palin get all the attention, but the governing soul of the party is to be found in statehouses where a loose confederation of über-wonks have become militant budget balancers. Just as welfare reformers of the 1990s presaged compassionate conservatism, so the austerity brigades presage the national party’s next chapter.
Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana who I think is most likely to win the G.O.P. presidential nomination in 2012, is the spiritual leader. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is the rising star. Jeb Bush is the eminence. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rob Portman, a Senate candidate in Ohio, also fit the mold.
The problem for Broder's fawning and Brooks' hope is that Daniels has to make his way through an increasingly radicalized Republican base before he can win the 2012 nomination. Tax proposals are nice, but they don't mean much to a Randian grass roots that hates government and sees taxation as tantamount to theft. Like Mitt Romney (but without the Mormonism), Daniels is too interested in policy to be palatable to a large chunk of the GOP base. Indeed, he can't even get away with floating a regressive tax increase:
"This is outside the bounds of acceptable modern Republican thought, and it is only the zone of extremely left-wing Democrats who publicly talk about those things because all Democrats pretending to be moderates wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot poll,” Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist told POLITICO. “Absent some explanation, such as large quantities of crystal meth, this is disqualifying. This is beyond the pale.”
My prediction if Daniels runs for president? He barely makes it through the opening primaries, and soon drops out to make the nomination contest a three-way race between Sarah Palin, Mike Pence, and the conservative cypher de jour (most likely John Thune, but could really be anyone).
-- Jamelle Bouie
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